You choose to launch on a new journey. You’ve set yourself a goal and you take the necessary steps towards reaching it. You’re making progress and you’re excited about it.
But… sometimes you slip.
Some days you’re full of energy, working hard and grinding it out. And some days you don’t even feel like getting out of bed.
Has that ever happened to you?
If so, relax. We’ve all been there.
The path to mastery can be hard at times and no one said it will be easy. You know that.
And yet most people struggle to find the drive needed to do the things that matter most.
Thus, the questions arises: How do you get the energy needed to do the things you know you should be doing?
Let’s find out.
. . .
We gain energy by using energy…
“A human being is the kind of machine that wears out from lack of use,” says George Leonard in his incredible book Mastery. He continues [emphasis mine]:
“There are limits, of course, and we do need healthful rest and relaxation, but for the most part we gain energy by using energy. Often the best remedy for physical weariness is thirty minutes of aerobic exercise. In the same way, mental and spiritual lassitude is often cured by decisive action or the clear intention to act.”
In the same book, George Leonard says that we can alter our lives significantly by tapping into this vast resource called energy. He also offers 7 practical ways for doing that.
. . .
1. Maintain physical fitness
Maintaining physical fitness will help raise your energy levels, release the toxins in your body and boost your metabolism.
It can also facilitate the release of those neurotransmitters called endorphins (a.k.a. “happy hormones”).
Again, we come back to the important statement mentioned above: we gain energy by using energy. And the old adage, “what you don’t use you lose” is crucial here as well.
Your body is a machine and a complex mechanism. Nevertheless, people are making it more complicated than it needs to be.
Remember: complexity is the enemy of execution. The more complex you make it, the less likely you are to execute.
So, let me make it simple for you.
At its core, the physical aspect of your life consists of 3 fundamental activities:
That’s it. But of course, the devil’s in the details.
All these three aspects are crucial for maintaining physical fitness, and each one of them can be a blog post in and of itself.
That’s why in this article I’ll touch on just a few key aspects.
Disclaimer: I’m not an expert or a certified coach in Health & Fitness. Please follow any advice given here at your own risk.
. . .
In regards to eating, there are a few basic principles to remember:
1. If you want to lose weight, you need to decrease your caloric intake below the amount of calories you burn each day.
For example, if you burn 2500 calories per day, you need to make sure that you don’t eat more than 2000 calories per day. This is called being in a “caloric deficit” state.
To figure out how many calories your body burns each day, use this simple calorie calculator as a starting point.
To keep track of your caloric intake and your body weight, use a free app like MyFitnessPal.
2. If you want to gain weight, you need to increase your caloric intake above the amount of calories you burn each day.
Following the previous example, that means you should eat more than 2500 calories per day. Try not to go more than 500 calories at a time.
Experiment, see how your body responds, and then make the necessary adjustments along the way.
3. If you want to maintain your body weight, just keep it at the “default” level (2500 calories per day).
In other words, if you want to get the same results you’ve been getting, keep doing what you’ve been doing. If you want different results, do something different. It’s that simple.
The best advice I can give you is to experiment. You don’t need to take this advice and follow it to the letter.
Especially in the area of health & fitness, there’s so much controversy going on. You read a book or listen to an “expert” who says that if you do this and that, you’re going to get great results.
Sure enough, after a while you read another book or listen to another “expert” who says that if you’ll do what the previous book or expert suggested, you’re going to die at a young age.
Who’s advice should you follow? Neither.
Don’t be a follower, be a student.
Experiment. Try different things and see which of them suits your body and your lifestyle better.
There’s no “BEST diet.” There’s only food. Design your own diet by figuring out what works best for you.
. . .
The importance of exercise in daily life cannot be underestimated.
Scientists, professors and various health organizations around the world dedicate their life studying this field. And every year, they come up with cutting-edge discoveries about the importance and the benefits of exercising.
There are plenty of them and a simple Google search will bring up thousands of results.
But that’s not the point here.
In simple terms, if you're looking to lose weight, then cardio exercises like walking, jogging, running and jumping ropes can help you.
If you want a more defined body, you can also engage in activities such as swimming, weight lifting, cross-fitting etc. You can also practice some basic body-weight exercises like push-ups, crunches, dips and pull-ups.
Try making it a priority to move at least 30-60 minutes a day. See what works best for you, and give it a go.
Quick tip: If you find it hard to start, try exercising in the morning when your willpower is at its peak. Also, if you’re just starting out, read this beginner’s guide to exercise.
. . .
Missing only a few hours of sleep on a consistent basis can have some terrible consequences on your mental and physical performance.
Did you know that going on for six hours of sleep a night can reduce your cognitive functioning to the equivalent of someone legally drunk?
Read that again.
Need proof? Read this great study done by David Dinges, the head of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the Hospital at University of Pennsylvania.
There’s enough research to prove that for a good night’s sleep, we need between 8 to 9 hours. Despite that, a Gallup study found that Americans currently average 6.8 hours of sleep at night.
The real number of hours can be even lower than that, because we don’t count the hours we’ve actually slept. We usually count the number of hours we spend in bed.
So, the first and most important step you need to take is to make sure that you get the recommended hours of sleep every night.
Not once in a while. But EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. The key aspect here is quality and consistency.
Another good idea would be to take a brief nap in the middle of the day whenever possible. That will make sure that you stay focused, creative and energized for the rest of the day.
Many think that a nap needs to be hours long. But in fact, a good 15 to 30 minutes of sleep can be more than enough.
Let me end this section with the words of George Leonard:
“… all things being equal, physical fitness contributes enormously to energy in every aspect of our lives. We might also suspect that, all things again being equal, those people who feel good about themselves, who are in touch with nature and their own bodies, are more likely to use their energy for the good of this planet and its people than those who live sedentary, unhealthy lives.”
. . .
2. Acknowledge the negative and accentuate the positive
"Numerous studies show that people with a positive outlook on life suffer far less sickness than those who see the world in negative terms. They also have more energy."
Denying the existence of negative factors and situations in your life is not being positive. This is called self-delusion.
In the words of George Leonard [emphasis mine]:
“Generally, denial inhibits energy, while realistic acknowledgment of the truth releases it. Even serious blows in life can give you extra energy by knocking you off dead center, shaking you out of your lethargy—but not if you deny the blows are real.
Acknowledging the negative doesn’t mean sniveling; it means facing the truth and then moving on. Simply describing what’s wrong with your life to a good friend is likely to make you feel better and more energetic. Once you’ve dealt with the negative, you’re free to concentrate on the best in yourself.”
. . .
3. Try telling the truth
According to research done by lying expert Robert Feldman, about 60 percent of us have a hard time getting through a ten-minute conversation without lying at least twice.
Isn't it crazy?
Despite that, telling the truth is almost always in your own best interest. "If you tell the truth," Mark Twain said, "you don’t have to remember anything."
That’s just one benefit of telling the truth. But there are several others, such as:
- People will trust you more.
- You earn the reputation as an honest person. The truth might not be always the most pleasant to hear, but it is absolutely critical to tell the truth whenever the situation asks for it.
- Being true to yourself and to others raises your self-esteem and your confidence.
- You can be more persuasive in social situations.
- You set the example for others to follow. That’s crucial, especially if you’re in a leadership position.
- You are trustworthy. That’s one of the most important benefits. You can’t really expect people to trust you if you’re not trustworthy.
- You can go to sleep at night with no resentments and you can wake up and look yourself in the mirror.
Studies even show that telling the truth could boost your health. How about that?
As George Leonard says:
“Truth-telling works best when it involves revealing your own feelings, not when used to insult others to get your own way. All in all, it has a lot going for it – risk, challenge, excitement, and the release of all of that energy.”
. . .
4. Honor but don’t indulge your own dark side
In this part, the author shares with us a brilliant story. It comes from Robert Bly, author of A Little Book on the Human Shadow.
In this book, he gives a modern view to Carl Jung’s idea of that unknown dark side of our personality called the shadow. The story goes like this:
“The young child, Bly tells us, can be visualized as a lively ball of energy that radiates in all directions. But the parents don’t like certain parts of the ball. In order to keep the parents’ love, the child puts the parts of him that they don’t like in an invisible bag that he drags behind him.
“By the time we go to school,” Bly writes, “the bag is quite large. Then our teachers have their say: ‘Good children don’t get angry over such little things.’ So we take our anger and put it in the bag.” By age twenty, he maintains, only a thin slice of our original energy is left.”
We all have repressed feelings and anger inside of us. But instead of letting these emotions eat us alive, we can use this powerful energy to our own advantage.
We can take our anger out of the bag and put it to work for positive purposes. For example, when you feel your anger rising, you can channel it towards your favorite project.
Even better, you can use this energy to fuel your motivation for your journey towards mastery and greatness.
George Leonard ends up saying this:
“We’ll enjoy a much more energetic world when society stops forcing us to put so much of ourselves into that invisible bag. Until then, we can note that the prodigies of energy whom we admire are precisely those people who know how to utilize the blazing energy that flows from that which has been called dark.”
. . .
5. Set your priorities
Most people lack the energy needed to do the things that matter most because their focus is spread in all directions. But you can’t really accomplish anything significant if you’re not crystal clear about what’s important to you.
You need clarity on your goals and you need to focus solely on activities that advance you in the direction of your goals.
So right now, accept the fact that you can’t do everything. You only have so much time and energy to spend during the day. So wouldn’t it be wise to spend it on your most important activities?
Here’s what you should do in practical terms.
A. Decide on your three most important activities for the next day. I call these Your Daily BIG three - the three most important, highest-leverage tasks you need to complete that day.
Your daily big three should be specific activities that are aligned with what you want to accomplish long-term, that work as part of the whole.
These are not full blown projects that must have all of their steps completed in a single day. The key is to list important tasks, but realistic tasks that can reasonably be completed during the day, makes sense?
Okay, now why in the world would you choose only 3 tasks?
Because as I said earlier, there’s simply never enough time, energy and brainpower to get everything done in any one given day. That’s just too high a bar to set. But there’s always enough time to get the most important things done.
So don't confuse movement for achievement; activity for productivity; busyness for progress. It’s not about accomplishing the greatest number of tasks – it’s about accomplishing more of the ones that matter most.
That’s the single biggest difference between being busy and being productive.
B) Once you’ve determined your daily BIG three activities for the day, choose the “ONE MUST” from these three items – this is the single most important activity you need to focus on that day.
- If there was only one task that absolutely MUST get done no matter what, what would it be?
- If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?
- Will moving this forward make all the other to-dos unimportant or easier to knock off later?” (Hat tip to Tim Ferriss).
C) Choose that one thing that you answered “yes” to and then block out at least two hours to focus on it without interruptions or distractions.
To be clear, I’m not talking about ten minutes here and there to add up to two hours. I’m talking about ONE session of intense focused work on that ONE thing.
You’ll get so much more done in a day than others get in a week.
. . .
6. Make commitments. Take action
Planning, organizing and thinking is all good. But nothing’s more energizing than the day you decide to take action towards a worthy purpose.
One of the best ways to commit to the goal you’ve set is to impose yourself a deadline.
Just think about it:
How many times have you procrastinated on an important project and then worked your ass off like crazy when the deadline was right around the corner?
You suddenly found the time, the energy, and maybe a few dozen cups of coffee to finish that damn project, right?
That’s the way our brains are wired to function. If we don’t have a clear deadline, we tend to put it off indefinitely.
That’s why another great way to do this is to make your commitment public.
Here’s what George Leonard suggests:
“The gift of an externally imposed deadline isn’t always available. Sometimes you need to set your own. But you have to take it seriously. One way to do this is to make it public. Tell people who are important in your life. The firmer the deadline, the harder it is to break, and the more energy it confers.
Above all else, move and keep moving. Don’t go off half cocked. Take time for wise planning, but don’t take forever. “Whatever you can do, or dream you can – begin it,” Goethe wrote. “Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
. . .
7. Get on the path of mastery and stay on it
“Over the long haul,” says George Leonard, “there’s nothing like the path of mastery to lead you to an energetic life.” He continues [emphasis mine]:
“A regular practice not only elicits energy but tames it. Without the firm underpinnings of a practice, deadlines can produce violent swings between frantic activity and collapse. On the master’s journey, you can learn to put things in perspective, to keep the flow of energy going during low moments as well as high.
You also learn that you can’t hoard energy; you can’t build it up by not using it. Adequate rest is, of course, a part of the master’s journey, but, unaccompanied by positive action, rest may only depress you.”
Remember that the journey to mastery is ultimately goalless. You don’t do it for the attainment of an extrinsic reward, but for the person you’re becoming in the process.
In other words, you take the journey for the sake of the journey itself.
Enjoy the journey, because therein lies the true happiness.
The journey to mastery is ultimately goalless. You don’t do it for the attainment of an extrinsic reward, but for the person you’re becoming in the process.
. . .
In quick recap, here are the seven practical ways to get more energy for mastery:
- Maintain physical fitness
- Acknowledge the negative and accentuate the positive
- Try telling the truth
- Honor but don’t indulge your own dark side
- Set your priorities
- Make commitments. Take action
- Get on the path of mastery and stay on it
And finally, let me end by sharing with you this great passage from George Leonard:
“It might well be, in fact, that much of the world’s depression and discontent, and perhaps even a good share of the pervasive malaise that leads to crime and war, can ultimately be traced to our unused energy, our untapped potential. People whose energy is flowing don’t need to take a drug, commit a crime, or go to war in order to feel fully awake and alive. There’s enough constructive, creative work for everybody, with plenty left over. All of us can increase our energy, starting now.”
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